This article today is prompted by reading the “Folk Like Us” profile by John Jeremiah Sullivan in the May 20, 2019, issue of New Yorker Magazine. Do yourself a favor and subscribe to this American treasure trove, at least an online subscription. Yours truly has benefited from this weekly periodical since the age of 16. You may have heard this mention in the past. Elucidating does not go far enough to describe the influence and edification. So much new from Rhiannon Giddens since the original publication of this article, including the vocal forward track, You’re the One, and the Pulitzer Rhiannon won for a new opera that tells the true story of an enslaved man taken from his home in what is now Senegal and trafficked to South Carolina. The opera premiered at the Spoleto Festival USA, less than a mile down the road from where the man was sold. After that, he spent five decades on plantations, including the one where he wrote his autobiography — the only known surviving slave narrative written in Arabic.


I highly recommend a read or listening to the Audm recording for the rich American Southern story of Rhiannon Gidden’s primary influence, Wilmington musician Frank Johnson. So much of Rhiannon Gidden’s personal history and the story of Mr. Johnson’s legacy touch the Piedmont, NC region, including Greensboro, Mebane, Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Durham. US History has all but glossed over the early port city Wilmington story, which includes an 1898 racial massacre and the subsequent exodus of its black citizens, not only knocked loosed the foundations of a rising African American middle class but also came close to obliterating the deep cultural memory of what had been among the most important black towns in the country for more than a century. The people who might have remembered Frank Johnson best, not just as a musician but as a man, were themselves violently unremembered.

Tomorrow is My Turn (available below Apple Music)


Rhiannon Giddens performed at the Coen brothers’ promotional concert for Inside Llewyn Davis, and she so impressed T Bone Burnett with her talent that he offered to produce her on the spot. He helped choose the classic American songs, working as an old-school A& R man (i.e., Artist and Repertoire). Patsy Cline’s urban country “She’s Got You” and Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s gospel blues “Up Above My Head” are perfect for Giddens’ flexible, nuanced vocals. With a backup band similarly top-notch—including legendary Funk Brothers percussionist Jack Ashford and veteran Nashville session bassist Dennis Crouch—Giddens is surrounded by star power. Yet Giddens shines brightest.

“I hope that people just hear American music,” says Giddens. “Blues, jazz, Cajun, country, gospel, and rock—it’s all there. I like to be where it meets organically. They’re fun songs, and I wanted them to have as much of a chance as they could to reach people who might dig them but don’t know anything about what I do. If they’re introduced to me through this record, they might go listen to other music I’ve made and make some new discoveries.”  

Rhiannon Giddens

“Is there anything Rhiannon Giddens can’t sing?…[she] sings with inflections that bridge mountains and deserts.”
— The New York Times

“The electrifying singer and banjo player gives fresh voice to old American traditions.”
— Smithsonian Magazine

“For nearly a decade, Giddens has been heralded as a luminary in the world of Americana, and for some time, she was one of the few African-American faces represented.”
— American Songwriter


Rhiannon Giddens’ “You’re the One,” the title track to the new album, is due August 18 on Nonesuch Records. 

(Rhiannon Giddens/Lalenja Harrington)

I knew you were the one. 
Were my one and only 
And I knew 
That you would always know me 
Cause you were the one 
Who kept me from feeling 
So sad and lonely in my life and

I never knew 
Life could be so wonderful 
That there could be someone  
Who was so beautiful 
And I never knew 
That I could be so free 
To love someone like you and  

I wanna love you forever 
And I’ll be with you  
For worse and for better 
And I never thought I’d fall 
But you’re the one 

I thought my life was drawn 
In shades of gray and 
That was how 
I would live my everyday and 
Aimless no direction found 
My destiny was going through the motions of a life and

Then you came along 
With your sweet sweet smile and 
Then you put your cheek  
Right next to mine and 
All those shades of gray slowly turned into a 
New technicolor world and 

I’m gonna love you forever 
And I’ll be with you 
For worse and for better 
And I never thought I’d fall 

And I’m gonna love you forever and 
I’ll be with you for worse and for better 
And I never thought I’d fall 
But you’re the one 

You’re the one 
Your smile contains the sun
Rays of glory 
You’re the one

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Rhiannon Giddens: “You’re the One”

Rhiannon Giddens shares a lyric video for the title track to her 2023 album; You’re the One. The song was inspired by a moment Giddens had with her son not long after he was born (he’s now ten years old, and she has a fourteen-year-old daughter as well). “Your life has changed forever, and you don’t know it until you’re in the middle of it, and it hits you,” Giddens says. “I held his little cheek up to my face and was just reminded, ‘Oh my God, my children—they have every bit of my heart.’”

Rhiannon Giddens

Uncovering the History of the Banjo with Rhiannon Giddens: From African Roots to American Music

Join renowned musician Rhiannon Giddens as she delves into the fascinating and complex history of the banjo. With her signature blend of musical expertise and historical insight, Giddens explores the African roots of the instrument, tracing its evolution through the centuries to its role in contemporary American music.

Through her engaging storytelling and masterful playing, Giddens reveals the banjo’s rich cultural heritage, highlighting the instrument’s significance as both a symbol of oppression and a source of empowerment. She draws on a wealth of historical research and personal experience to offer a thought-provoking exploration of the banjo’s complex legacy, shedding light on the ways in which music can serve as a powerful tool for resistance, resilience, and transformation.

Whether you’re a music lover, a history buff, or simply curious about the banjo’s fascinating past and present, this video is not to be missed. Join Rhiannon Giddens as she takes us on a journey through the vibrant and multifaceted history of this iconic instrument, and discover the enduring power of music to inspire, challenge, and unite us all.